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Poster: Jim F Date: Jul 8, 2010 3:47am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Constanten on Constanten

Interesting stuff, thanks for compiling that. I have always wanted to read his book, as there isn't too much commentary out there from T.C.

I met him once, at what I think was the second show of the short tour the Vince Welnick Band did in the early summer of 2006. The tour had been booked for quite a while, but then as we all know, Vince took his own life a week or so before the tour was to start, and T.C. graciously decided to take the spot on keys and continue with the tour, as a series of tribute shows to Vince.

The opening act was a local GD tribute band that I was very tight with and used to record for who had a house gig at the venue every tuesday, so I was familiar with the band and staff and got there quite early before the doors opened. It was a very small venue that held at most 200 people, 300 if you really crammed them in. Before the show I mingled around a bit as the band was setting up and such, and talked to some of the band and crew, who were also setting up recording gear, which I patched off of. All very nice people, except for one guy, who was somewhat grumpy about me wanting a patch off of his deck. I guess I also felt rather entitled as at the time I was going to the venue every week, knew the sound guy well, and was accustomed to having permission to just go to the board and patching myself in whenever I wanted.

First the night started with a solo acoustic set by a wonderful local talent named Heather Barth, who played maybe 35 minutes. Then the local GD tribute played an average show lasting about an hour, which is worth noting that they opened with Bertha, and as T.C. and Vince's band had split before the opening act, there was no communication and both bands ended up playing bertha (and Good Lovin, I think). At the time I was in charge of keeping the setlists for the opening act, and I tried to give it to Vince's people, but I think they already had their setlist made out and weren't going to change it.

Around midnight Vince's band took the stage, and were amazing. I spent much of the show sitting on the stage, in awe of how powerful this band was, much more powerful than what I was expecting. They cruised through an hour or so playing great versions of things like Black Throated Wind, an original titled "4:20," Franklin's Tower, and a pretty passable Samba in the Rain (never a favorite of mine). It was in the last half of the show that things became truly magical, and still holds a high place on my list of the most powerful music I have ever seen.

The big jam started off quietly with the only version of He Was a Friend of Mine that I've ever seen live. Very soft, poignant, and reflective of the mood for the tour surrounding Vince's death. After a good 12 minutes or so, they sailed right into a gorgeous Dark Star. It is still my favorite Dark Star I've ever seen live, probably. They jammed it out quite a while, it was like a collection of all of my favorite sections of Dark Star from 1968-1974. Eventually they quieted down and only TC was left onstage, and he began to play a great piano solo with vocals of St Stephen jam>A Day in the Life>Ritual Fire>A Day in the Life reprise. Very moving. The rest of the band came back, this time including Dino English from DSO, who used to be in the local GD tribute and was in town, on drums, and they picked right back up on Dark Star. They took Dark Star into a really nice space segment, it felt like I was back in 1972. After that half hour or so journey, where else to go but Morning Dew. One of the most impressive Dews I've ever heard. Pure raw emotion. After that they could have just left the stage, there wasn't much more of anything left they could have said, but instead they gave us a hard rockin' version of Music Never Stopped. It was 2:30 am and the curfew was up.

Immediately after they left the stage, their lead guitar player, who was just phenomenal, came over and sat down near the board where I had my gear. He engaged me in conversation, and I told him that that was one of THE best performances I'd ever seen, that Vince would have been proud and that I am glad they decided to continue on with the tour. He was extremely personable, making a comment about how I was a "trooper" for standing in front/sitting on stage for the entire 2 and a half hours, never leaving for anything. He was super cool and invited me to come "backstage" with him (which was really just a dirty basement) to hang out and meet TC.

When I got down there, some of the guys I was friends with from the opening band were down there, and there was TC. I had brought my copy of Live/Dead and a sharpie, hoping I could get him to sign the album that I consider is what made me a Deadhead. So I walked up and started a conversation with him. I told him all about how Live/Dead was the album that turned me onto early Dead and made me a Deadhead, and that since he was a part of that I would love it if he would sign my copy for me. He seemed taken aback and really honored by my asking him for an autograph. I felt like a dork asking, I typically feel autographs are silly to bother people for, but he seemed genuinely happy to oblige. We chatted about Dark Star a little, in general as well as the version they played that night, and I brought up a quote similar to what is said above, about how you don't so much as begin Dark Star as you enter it, and you don't so much end it as you leave it. And he smiled with enthusiasm, remembering the quote, and said "...and it's always going on!"

We only chatted for a few minutes, but it was a conversation I will always cherish. It was a real honor to shake the hand that shook the hand, and played the keys on some of my most favorite Dead shows. The man is extremely smart, very kind and personable, and a real joy to talk to. I wish we'd have had an hour or two.

I didn't leave the venue till around 5 am, getting home just as the sun was rising, feeling I had quite possibly just had the most fulfilling musical experience I'd ever had. I barely slept, and woke up in the afternoon to meet some friends before dinner before catching the Tom Petty/Trey Anasasio concert that night. The tickets were free, otherwise I probably wouldn't have gone, but there was no way I could enjoy the show. After what I had seen less than 24 hours before, there was just nothing that could compare.

This post was modified by Jim F on 2010-07-08 10:47:21